Langer vying for sixth Schwab Cup season championship

AP Sports

Bernhard Langer watches his tee shot in the 17th hole during the last day of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic golf tournament at Country Club of Virginia on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Richmond, Va. (Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — The motion is simple, at least for a collection of moving body parts.

Bernhard Langer turns his body back, shifts his weight left, keeps it turning all the way through. Everything stays connected, turning in one motion, the club face returning to the same place every time.

It’s a motion he’s been repeating for parts of six decades, piling up major championships along the way while allowing him to maintain his place among golf’s elite at an age most players are looking to move up a tee box — or four.

“It’s not just a golf swing; it’s the mental side, it’s the putting, the chipping, the bunker game, withstanding pressures, enjoy still working at it when you think you maybe could be retired or should be retired at times,” the 64-year-old Langer said Wednesday at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship after a practice round. “It’s a big puzzle really and all pieces have to be together and working at a fairly high percentage to make this happen.”

Langer’s swing-solving skills have put him in a familiar place: frontrunner to win another Schwab Cup title.

The German star is one of four players with a chance to win the season points title this weekend at Phoenix Country Club, with Jim Furyk, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ernie Els.

Langer has multiple scenarios to win the season-long Schwab Cup for the sixth time, from winning the Charles Schwab Championship to finishing 35th, depending how the other contenders end up.

In other words, he’s a pretty big favorite.

“He’s just dedicated and ironman, you know?” said Els, who needs to win this weekend and have Langer finish outside the top 7 to take the season title. “He loves what he does obviously and he does it very well, and he just sticks with what he does and that’s hitting it in the fairways and getting it on the greens and doing what he’s supposed to do. Really, hats off to Bernhard, he’s been an inspiration to a lot of players.”

Langer was one of the best PGA Tour players of an era, winning the Masters twice and racking up 64 wins internationally. He’s dominated the PGA Tour Champions, winning 11 major championships, 42 tournaments overall — most recently the Dominion Energy Charity Classic last month — and four of the past six Schwab Cups.

Langer also has made the cut at the Masters four times since 2015, including a tie for 29th this year.

It’s not as easy as it looks.

With age comes creakiness in the muscles and joints, which seem to worsen with each birthday. Langer is still incredibly fit — his calves may give Phil Mickelson a run for his money — but it takes a great deal of work to keep it that way.

That means lots of stretching, small workouts, extended visits to the tour’s physio trailer before rounds.

“This morning I had an 8 a.m. tee time. I had to get up at 4:30 to do that and it’s not easy,” he said. “The body is stiff in the morning like any other 64-year-old or whatever, so it takes a while to get moving. I prefer afternoon tee times to morning tee times, there’s no doubt about it.”

While the main attraction will be the race between the four Schwab Cup contenders, Mickelson’s presence adds extra buzz.

A six-time major champion, Lefty is playing in the Charles Schwab Championship for the first time.

Mickelson still has the game to compete on the PGA Tour — he won the PGA Championship earlier this year at 50 — and has been a part-time competitor on the PGA Tour Champions. The former Arizona State player has been successful when he’s played in the older circuit, winning three times in five starts during the wraparound 2020-21 season.

“It’s much more social,” Mickelson said. “It’s competitive, but it’s also, these are guys we’ve known for decades now and friendships have been formed and a lot of moments have been shared. I think that that kind of closeness doesn’t come right away, it comes over time. So you see a lot of really strong relationships out here.”

Mickelson, like everyone else in the field, will be chasing Langer.

It won’t be easy. Even at 64, Langer and his swing are still elite.

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